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Along the Road to Elder Justice


By Julie Schoen, JD, National Center on Elder Abuse

September 08, 2016

As the NCEA begins its third fiscal year at the Keck School of Medicine of USC, we need to pay homage to the innovators of the Elder Justice Roadmap.  This publication definitely laid out the issues, questions, and potential solutions relating to Elder Abuse in 2014.   I am struck by how far we have come and how much further we have to go. All of us should continue to utilize this tool as we continue our journey.

Recently along the road, we encountered a new development.   The NCEA began receiving horrific images on Facebook and other social media outlets of blatant instances of elder abuse–A frail African American senior being teased and pushed by her caregivers; a granddaughter kicking her grandfather because he wouldn’t give her money– scenarios similar in nature to stories shared during our technical assistance response. My first reaction was to demand that Facebook remove these horrific posts immediately, however,  as I reflected further, I realized how these images provide further justification for better policy and more awareness surrounding Elder Abuse issues. In reporting these postings to Facebook, I learned that these posting are not prohibited by Facebook at this time.  These postings do not violate Facebook’s “community standards” although Facebook does have a mechanism for reporting child abuse.   And so the education campaign has begun.  A fledgling international group comprised of professionals in the Elder Justice field that NCEA participates in called the #ElderJusticeLeague , sent an open letter to Facebook explaining that the activities portrayed in these videos are at least disrespectful and at their most serious, criminal.   We have yet to hear back from Facebook, but that will not prevent us from continuing to reach out to them to educate them and to hopefully collaborate with them to effectuate change.

This leads us to our next detour; the discussion of changing the public discourse on Elder Abuse.  How do we reframe the topic to build awareness and have people respond?  So often people turn away from a discussion about elder abuse remarking: “Oh, that is too depressing!” or “That is not really a BIG problem, is it?” How do we get more public involvement in preventing this epidemic, in a world fraught with a myriad of social injustices?  The NCEA hopes to have a solution to this question as we further our work with the Frameworks Institute in reframing the Elder Abuse message.   We anticipate bringing you more information in early 2017.

So as you see, along this path, NCEA has encountered many detours-but here is what I have learned:

There is an ever growing contingent of people who DO CARE and are working collaboratively to effectuate change.  At the NCEA we are going state-to-state to learn more about what innovations individuals, groups and organizations on a statewide level are accomplishing. We will keep you apprised of these activities in the coming year.
There are researchers working to better understand each type of elder abuse and how we can achieve better statistics and outcomes.  The NCEA is partnering with USC and the Tamkin Foundation, Inc. to host a symposium on September 15-16th in Los Angeles to examine research solutions to EA. Please stay tuned for updates- We hope to translate the findings from this event into a white paper.

There is more to look forward to from the NCEA in the upcoming year:

  • We will continue to serve the public in providing validated, reliable resources to receive assistance and answers to their dilemmas.  We will do this through our information and assistance line as well as email and social media outlets.  Please visit our newly refreshed website at;
  • We will continue to work with the best advisors in the country to guide us in providing you with the latest trends in Policy, Practice Improvement, Research and Education;
  • We will be providing materials to assist professionals and the public at large concerning such policy issues as Guardianship Standards of Practice, public concerns involving Medicare Fraud and Elder Abuse, highlighting the successes that are beginning in the prosecution of perpetrators of Elder Abuse; and
  • We are collaborating, we are innovating and we are making a difference.  So we will continue the journey, roadmap in hand and ask you all to join the NCEA along the road to Elder Justice.
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